How To Improve Communication With Students In Online Courses

How To Improve Communication With Students In Online Courses

Online courses create key challenges in instructor-to-student and peer-to-peer communications. Fortunately, engagement technology helps improve communication in online courses.

Meaningful connections between instructors and students are often huge motivating forces for students to persist in their courses. They keep students engaged, motivated, and emotionally invested in their learning. The foundation that those connections are built on is consistent communication.

In online courses, communication with students seems simple and straightforward. But it’s precisely because it seems straightforward that it can be easily overlooked, causing frequency and quality of communication to pale in comparison to in person communication. 

As an instructor, how do you make sure that you’re staying in communication with each of your students and give them the personal attention that will help them persist through their courses?

Existing Limitations

While many instructors rely on a combination of email, phone, and video conferencing tools to communicate with their students, each of those methods has their own limitations.

  • Phone calls can produce inconsistent results because students may not always answer. And when you do get a hold of them, there’s no written record of what was discussed, which can result in forgotten or misremembered information.
  • Emails feel formal and distant, and can easily get buried in inboxes.
  • Video conferencing tools like Zoom require both parties to be available at the same time when used for communication outside of class.

The tools mentioned above are great for supplementing in-person communication. But now that communication is exclusively remote, and instructors are the main point of contact students have with their school, the impact of consistent communication is more important than ever in helping students persist.


To communicate consistently and meaningfully, instructors need to take a multifaceted approach by using an app on students’ phones as a fourth option to bridge the gap between phone calls, emails, and video meetings.

One On One Communication

You may be thinking, I already know how to reach my students! I can just send them a quick email. But the reality is that meaningful and consistent communication is hard to cultivate through email because messages can easily slip through the cracks.


Email inboxes receive an influx of messages from a variety of sources, like students from multiple courses, administration, colleagues, and more. And for instructors using personal email addresses as the point of contact for their students, their inboxes are hit with external personal and promotional emails on top of those related to school.


But by using an app with a designated channel where students can reach you, like CourseKey’s Q&A feature, you can be much more aware of open questions versus resolved ones. All student communication is organized by student, course, and topic, helping you make sure to get back to every student without having to sift through emails that are irrelevant to class.


Giving students the chance to ask questions over an app is also a more student-friendly method of initiating communication in comparison to emails, which can feel reserved for high pressure situations. Some students may feel as though their question isn’t important enough to warrant an entire email, so they may not ask it at all. But by using an app on their mobile devices, which most students are used to doing on a daily basis, students will feel more comfortable (and encouraged!) to ask questions.


Through the Q&A feature, you and your student can have an ongoing, private conversation, allowing you to provide that valuable one on one attention that keeps students engaged and helps them persist through their course.

Coursewide Communication

In addition to one on one communication, the CourseKey app also provides a coursewide chat that you can leverage to communicate with the entire class. This feature is perfect for maintaining frequent touch points with students and providing them with opportunities for peer to peer interaction.


The coursewide chat is your venue to make updates and announcements, push reminders about deadlines or upcoming activities, share supplemental learning material, and more.


Having that extra avenue for class community can help make students feel less isolated, especially in times of unprecedented disaster. For example, schools in Houston used it to verify student safety during Hurricane Harvey and schools in California have consistently used it to verify student safety during wildfires.

Peer To Peer Interaction

You can also use the coursewide chat to start class discussions and let students engage with one another in real-time. Students can discuss poll results, share opinions, and exchange ideas, all contributing to forming relationships with their classmates. The chat remains open outside of class, letting students ask questions to their classmates on their own time without requiring you to moderate the conversation.


The chat gives your students another avenue besides video meetings, where not all students are comfortable conversing, to interact with each other. Think of the quiet students from your in person classes who don’t raise their hands. Some students are more comfortable participating in discussions and voicing their opinions via text than verbally.


The coursewide chat provides students with opportunities for peer to peer interaction, which is vital to their learning experience and makes attending class enjoyable. Participating in interactions with the entire class reminds students that they’re part of a collective group, helping keep students retained.

In Conclusion

To provide your students with meaningful and consistent communication, use an app like Coursekey on students’ phones to round out your methods of communication and empower students to initiate conversations with you.


Switching to online courses unexpectedly can be a tough transition for students and instructors. Both are being forced to change their teaching and learning styles/habits. And because students can feel more isolated in online courses, meaningful and consistent communication is even more important to help them persist online.


To experience firsthand how you can leverage CourseKey’s communication tools to improve communication in your courses, request a demo at the link below.

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